The scrivener corkboard with pins

*** This is a REPOST of an article I wrote a few years ago. Since then, Scrivener have released an iOS app that to a certain extent means that syncing with index-card is less important. The scrivener ios app can be found here. ***

So I haven’t talked much about screenwriting software so far on this site – the reason is that the process I’ve outlined here, is pretty application agnostic. You can do it on paper, you can do it in word, conceivably you could go all the way from idea to outline to script in Final Draft. Not that anyone would actually do that.


The way I’ve been working recently is to do my early treatment work in an application called Scrivener. Scrivener is a pretty function heavy document management app – so those people who like to live simply might find it a bit overwhelming.

The feature I’ve been liking (among its many) recently, is the corkboard option.

That means that when you are working through your outline, you can break out your story – one beat to a card. Like a real corkboard, you can move these cards around, re-order them, or throw a card away and start a new one.Then you can re-lock the index cards in the new order.

Scrivener corkboard with status stamps

The great thing about these index cards is that they are attached to little text files within the app. This means that you can now expand your story beats to longer paragraphs within your treatment or scriptment – and keep these blocks of text (the app calls them “scrivenings”) attached to your virtual index cards. If you need to go back a step and re-order your cards, the outline beneath is also re-ordered.

Index Card

But, I hear you say, what if you want to break your story on the go? Well, I’m often on a train, and story breaking is the kind of activity that isn’t too intense, but also a really good use of time. Wouldn’t it be good if I could do on a mobile device that I can hold in my hand?

This is the answer. It is called Index Card and I can use it on my iPad mini. It syncs with your scrivener cork board files (although sometimes this is a little awkward, and you should read the tutorial for it here). Also the font that the app uses for the stack cards is not so great.

Nevertheless, dear reader, it works.

With this combination, I can do some story breaking on the train, then push it over to my mac running scrivener, and start pulling together an outline.

Scrivener also has a screenwriting function, so you could conceivably push all the way through to the first draft before outputting to something like Final Draft to work with revisions and production as necessary.

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I'm James, a screenwriter working in the film and TV industry. To get in touch, see my e-mail contact page.

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